Human Resources: Staffing After the Downturn

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If preventive medicine is the new paradigm, for example, it's a good time to ask questions about how chronic diseases are managed, both for patients and for hospital employees enrolled in the health plan. "Do we really understand the value proposition for helping them maintain their health and avoiding hospitalization or complications from their disease? What do we do for our own community of healthcare recipients? What are we doing," Dubree asks, "to understand what needs to happen for that population of people?"

Dubree and Payne say the hospital staff of the future will ideally possess the seemingly opposite assets of versatility and specialization.

"Rather than taking little competencies and building on them, we will start to look for people who have a propensity for lifelong learning and working with teams, because the healthcare in hospitals and ambulatory care sites will be done in teams. The competencies that I know to be true today will not be the ones required in five or 10 years."

Payne says most nursing managers want employees with specific skill sets and experience. Once they're on board, however, managers appreciate flexibility to work in other units.

With the growth of electronic medical records, however, Payne says hospitals will be very hard pressed to find qualified IT staff. "That requires people with extraordinarily specific skills," he says. Hospitals are looking for people who are familiar not only with a specific brand or type of software, but a specific version of it because they don't have the time or money to train. "But once you get them, you want to have the flexibility to grow into something different."

Payne says specialization and flexibility are prized now "especially as the workforce isn't necessarily shrinking but it's not growing dramatically . . . Growth will be minimal for the time being," he says. "And that means people might be asked to do things they didn't' do before."

John Commins

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